Had he lived, today would have been my father’s seventieth birthday. Tomorrow my mother will be 68. When Dad was alive none of us kids could keep their birthdays straight. Year after year Torey and I would (separately) call Mom and wish her a happy birthday, sometimes singing it to her in a stupid voice. When we had finished, she would say laughing, “Oh Honey, thank you, but today is your dad’s birthday.” Then we would call Dad. Somehow we always forgot.
Archives for September 2008
Dad went into the hospital on April 2 and finally died on June 22. Beside the door of his various rooms was posted his information: Wolfe, Donald R. DOB: 9/27/58.
September 27th. I can’t tell you how many times I read that typed sheet. In those days upon days that numbered his last on earth, I finally learned the date of his birth. When it rolled around just three months after his death, I knew it was coming; I was marking it. This irony was just another drop in the bitterness that was then my cup.
We kids had never really made a big deal about our parents’ birthdays, following their lead. We called, sometimes sent cards, occasionally bought a present and that was enough, but the first birthdays after his death, the burden of my mother’s aloneness fell heavily on me. The 27th dawned and I called my mother and wished her a happy birthday. “Today is your dad’s birthday,” she said gently. I told that I knew and then we both began to cry. I have called her on the 27th and done something for her on her own birthday ever since.
This evening I realized that I forgot to call her, that I forgot today was his birthday at all.
R.I.P. – Rest In Peace is often written as a fitting closing to a tribute or memory of one who is dead, but I don’t find it necessary. I know he is at peace and I am glad to realize that I am too.
Ren’s here today and the kids are all playing upstairs. I have been outside working in the gardens. I am exerting a lot of effort just to stay on task, that being getting plants that I recently bought in the ground. Unfortunately this requires moving around and dividing some existing plants, some of which are in the sun, that is quite bright today, so I am trying to work in the shade, where I have good ideas of other projects and next thing you know I’m tempted to start painting the house again.
On the upside, it’s gorgeous out. The light keeps changing as the sun shifts and moves throughout the trees. No gardener is ever satisfied, and it is a practice to focus on the beauty that is, rather than the weeds, the bare spots where plants didn’t make it and all the projects that are, by default, being pushed off until next year. Although I am tired and slightly overwhelmed, I have been continually struck by the loveliness surrounding me, so much of which is the fruit of my labor.
I need to get back to work, but I wanted to write this down, because it is a record of my own growth, as much as my garden’s.
I had wondered about this, having read a lot of her work and a biography. She had a very hard life.
I’m glad that her granddaughter has respectfully broken the silence about her death. Suicide is so terrible. Mourning any death is hard, but losing a loved one to suicide is…at the moment I can’t describe it,and am only able to picture the inky blackness that seems to permeate the world.
I can’t imagine suffering with depression in the early part of the last century, especially being the wife of a clergyman. There is still so much shame associated with depression even in this day and age.
A couple of years ago I began an essay about the depression I slid into during my pregnancy with Lydia in the midst of Christopher’s diagnosis. I wrote a lot in a burst, set it down unfinished, added a little and then abandoned it again as I worked through another episode of depression itself.
But now, though I don’t have it all figured out, I know it’s time to write whatever I can in order to record the journey as truly as I am able.
At the moment I am debating between:
doing a load of laundry
folding a load of laundry
putting away (see above)
sprucing the kitchen
planting some ferns that I dug out and are languishing
planting some peonies
sprucing (might need to upgrade that verb) my bedroom
But what I really want to do is pull out a can of paint and slather a bit on a wall of my porch area, since we have pretty much given up on getting the exterior painted this season, and it would make another mess.
I might compromise by sitting in the sun and looking at my gardens.
Will report back.
The day of Lydia’s birth is one of the happiest of my life. She was the bright spot in the midst of a long and dark depression. I held her in my arms before the cord was cut and wept because I was so relieved that she was here and that my labor was finished. Of course, in a whole new way, it had just begun.
I am thinking about this as we navigate, awkwardly, this arduous time which is adolescence.
This picture is my prayer.
May she know that she shines like a light, that she is beloved and that I am always behind her. Help me to be behind her.